20th Century Fox | 1950 | 138 mins. | NR
If Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard offers a brilliant glimpse of washed up Hollywood, All About Eve is the best example of a stars struggle to stay at the top of the heap. Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the dialogue is pitch perfect—filled with one liners, both poisonous and catchy—every indelible scene building to the next one. A wanna be actress looking for her big break slowly worms her way into the glamorous life of a legendary Broadway star, than tries to replace her both privately and professionally, without regret.
Cast as Margo Channing, Bette Davis often said she knew she’d been given a great role. As Margo, Davis got to let it all hang out; throwing daggers at anyone who got in her way, and strutting around as the ultimate stage diva. As it happens, the part turned Davis’ own flagging career back on its feet.
Karen (Celeste Holm), the wife of playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), meets Eve (Anne Baxter), outside the theatre and invites her backstage to meet Margo. Hearing Eve’s story, Margo becomes enchanted with Eve and offers her a job as her assistant. For Eve, being part of the creative process has always been with her. As a girl, she would play pretend, and ‘the unreal seemed more real to me.’ Eve grateful accepts the job and makes herself indispensible. However, Margo begins to grow disenchanted with her. When Eve arranges a coming-home party for Margo’s boyfriend, Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill), without telling her, Margo is furious and eventually alienates just about everyone in attendance.
Eventually, everyone begins to see the ‘real’ Eve Harrington. She persuades Karen to arrange with the play’s producer, Max Fabian (Gregory Ratoff), to have Eve become Margo’s understudy. When Margo is late for an audition for an aspiring actress, Eve reads in Margo’s place. Margo is furious when she finds out. Hearing of her husband’s displeasure with Margo afterwards, Karen arranges for Margo to be stranded in the country, allowing Eve to go on in Margo’s place at the theatre. She also makes sure that a number of theatre critics to be in attendance, including the influential Addison DeWitt (George Sanders). Eve is a hit, and DeWitt offers to help her career.
Lloyd Richards finishes his new play called Cora and offers the lead role to Eve, who is again a success. Eve also schemes to steal Lloyd away from Karen, but her efforts are thwarted by DeWitt, who threatens to expose the real truth about her past. Eve wins the illustrious Sarah Siddons Award for her performance in Cora, but her time on top may turn out to be short-lived.
All About Eve took home six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Supporting Actor (George Sanders) went to this cinematic masterpiece. Had Bette Davis and Anne Baxter not competed as Best Actress (Baxter refused to place herself in the Supporting Actress category), it probably would have won two more awards.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1 is reproduced using the AVC codec. The image is very clean, showing no debris or artifacts. The grayscale rendering is top notch with excellent sharpness and resolution. Black levels can be very good but do vary from sequence to sequence.
The Blu-ray offers both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encodes. Both feature slight hiss in the movie’s quieter moments, and the lossless track is 5.1 in name only. The main and end title music is spread nicely across the fronts and there is some evidence of some low end during the Alfred Newman-composed main titles, but the rear surrounds and subwoofer really are not used to any real degree. The recording of the marvelous dialogue is replicated here to perfection.
The two audio commentaries have been ported over from the last DVD release of the movie. The first with Celeste Holm, Christopher Mankiewicz, and Kenneth Geist (author of “Pictures Will Talk: The Life and Films of Joseph L. Mankiewicz”) and the second with Sam Staggs (author of “All About All About Eve”).
We then get the follow featurettes shown in 480i: an American Movie Classics Backstory documentary, “All About Eve,” that lasts about forty minutes. Then, there are original promotional interviews with Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, brief and obviously staged; original Movietone newsreel clips of the 1951 Oscar Awards Show and movie première; “Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz” is a discussion of the writer/director’s career that lasts about 26 minutes. Relatives discuss Mankiewicz’s life apart from his movies in “A Personal Journey,” lasting 26-minutes. “The Real Eve” documents the real-life story of actress Elisabeth Bergner and the woman, who wheedled her way into her life and attempted to benefit from it. “The Secret of Sarah Siddons” details the work of Chicago’s Sarah Siddons Society which was established two years after Mankiewicz invented the award for All About Eve honoring distinguished work in theater.
The Blu-ray is housed in a 25-page photo and information filled digi-book.
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